Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales)
March 16, 1970
Three forms of love
I accept your applause at the beginning as a manifestation of your faith. If there is any applause in the middle, it will be hope; in the end, charity. You know, when the Senator was introducing me and telling you all the things I had done, I was really wondering if I was the next speaker.
It reminded me of a judge in Brooklyn who bore the name of Dunn. There was a particularly stupid witness on the stand (not that all stupid witnesses come from Brooklyn, but this one did.) The prosecuting attorney said to him, "Were you at the corner of 4th and Elm the day of the accident?" "Who, me?" "Yes, you.” Did you notice whether or not an ambulance came to care for the wounded woman ?" "Who, me ?" "Yes, you. Did you notice whether the woman was seriously injured?" "Who, me?" Well, of course, the prosecuting attorney was exasperated by that time. He said, "Certainly, you. Why do you think you're here?" "I'm here to see justice done." Judge Dunn said, "Who, me?"
Now, I don't want you to expect too much of me. It should probably be a learned talk. One gets credit for learning when really one is not, A taxi driver in New York not long ago said to me, " I never went beyond the third grade, but I have a lot of people in my cabs who use big words, so, he said, I have picked up a lot of big words." From that time on he used only polysyllables—and out of context! As I was getting out of the taxi, he said to me, "I love to hear you on television. You have such a wonderful voice; it has so much animosity in it!"
Now, I am going to stop at 19 minutes after, so you can get to your classes. I will just go by my clock. I have no papers, so you can't say, "He has only three more inches to go." The reason I don't use notes is that I once heard a woman say of a bishop who was reading his sermon, "Glory be to God, if he can't remember it, how does he expect us to?"
Oh----, you like that do you? Let me tell you, I was a professor for 25 years. I didn't start teaching here in America. I started teaching in London. I was teaching theology and I resolved that if ever I was to be a teacher there were two things that I must do. One: I must stand, not sit, and secondly: I must not read. It was very hard; in fact, I was a very poor teacher for the first year or two; so I just grew up without using notes.
A newspaperman came to me and said, "Have you anything prepared? I said, "Certainly I have something prepared, but it is not written. What am I going to talk to you about? A subject that I think is very close to you and should be—it's about love. And one of the reasons I'm talking about this is that it is generally said today—well, anything is all right if you love. But, unfortunately, in English, we have only one word for love—so—I love pickles; I love olives; I love the Los Angeles freeway; I love John. And love, therefore, does not carry any great depths of meaning.
But love has various meanings. And the Greeks, have three words for love. Three. And we're going back and analyze the three words for love— the three Greek words. Now let me tell you that just to discover, my dear students, these three Greek words for love is alone worth the price of admission to this hall
The first Greek word for love was eros. And it really meant a great urge to get beyond one's self. It was the drive that made art, that made a man a philosopher. And, particularly, the eros was the impetus to the good life. And sometimes it was even used as the urge toward God. It was, therefore, a very noble word. But it became changed in our times by Freud, who used it as a libido. And now eros has become erotic. And so, we have the word today, sexy—or erotic. And this is the modern, degenerate form of what was something very noble to the Greeks, namely, eros.
So let us speak of the erotic as it is sometimes understood today. Dr. Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist who has just written this marvelous work, "Love and Will," says that the fig leaf which so often appears in Greek sculpture, the fig leaf which hid the secret parts of man and woman, has today moved to the face, so that what is hidden in much love today is the person. And all that love means is not so much a concern for a person, as a concern for the pleasure which that person gives me. Hence, it is not the love of a person; it is the love of an experience.
It's not surprising, therefore, that one of the novels that appears today is called, The Love Machine. So that just as in a machine there are replaceable parts, so, too, in human relations there are replaceable parts--humans.
This forgets that the only animals that make love face to face are human persons. That's because the person is important. Sex is replaceable; love is not. No one can take the place of a father or mother or brother or sister or a husband or wife. But when the eros degenerates merely to pleasure, then the person is completely submerged. It's not so surprising that men should develop this idea; it's rather surprising that women should fall for it. And the reason is that a man and a woman can love in different ways. A man can love a part of a woman. I need not develop that. A man can love a part of a woman, but a woman can love only the whole man. That is why the woman is slow to love. Because she waits until she can totally commit herself to someone, because it's her nature to give herself completely and she waits until she's sure of that surrender. And she wants it appreciated. So when eros degenerated into the erotic, it gave us the primacy of pleasure and emotion and temptation rather than a love for a person.
Here is something interesting about the true nature of love. In the Scriptures, you never find love described in terms of sex—and it's not because the Scriptures ignore sex. As a matter of fact, the first sex joke in the Bible is about Abraham and Sarah. What is the word that is used? Knowledge. And that should mean something to you, students. For example, Adam knew Eve and she conceived. Mary—I know not man. Husbands, possess your wives in knowledge. Why knowledge? For two reasons. First of all, there is no intimacy in nature that quite equals the closeness of the mind with what it knows, or the knower and what is known. And so here there is a suggestion that there is a very close bond of two in one flesh. But there's still another reason. Knowledge creates obligations and bonds. Now, you are students of Kansas State. You will be proud of being graduates of Kansas State. The degree that you receive here and the knowledge that you are receiving from this university will always make you obligated to Kansas State. Or to make it precise, suppose you never knew before until now that Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616. And now you knew it for the first time. You would always be obligated to me for r giving you that knowledge. You could use the knowledge over and over again, but you could never reacquire it. And so, too, in the relationship of man and woman, it Is she that makes him a man and he that makes her a woman. And knowledge has been communicated. A bond has been passed and created. It is not like drinking the water and forgetting the glass. And just as you are always responsible to Kansas State for the information and knowledge given to you and you regard it as the Alma Mater, so a bond has been created in the flesh, which is enduring, which is registered, and knowledge has been communicated. This is the true nature of the eros. And, you, see, it emphasizes the person.
Why is it, for example, that we never mind seeing people eat in public? When we go to Paris in summer and spring, we see many people eating out in sidewalk cafes. But why is it, though you never mind seeing people eat in public, you do not like to see love-making in public? It is because making love is personal, unique; it involves just one. And to expose that which is reserved for one to the crowd is to expose it to the vulgus, in Latin, which is crowd. And to expose it to the vulgus is to make it vulgar, which brings us back once again to the idea that the real eros is the love for a person and not for an experience. Now that's our first Greek word.
We have 19 minutes to go through the other two. I want to tell you that 19 minutes is going to seem long,, because my talks always seem longer than they are. I know of a Biblical lecturer who had as his subject the 12 minor prophets. After one hour and 45 minutes, he had finished three. He had a dim sense that maybe the audience was getting tired and perhaps he should introduce the next one with some degree of histrionics. He said, "And now... and now... Where shall I place Habakkuk?" Someone got up in the back and said, "He can take my seat."
The Greeks had another word for love. The other word for love is philia. You know it. Philadelphia. Adelphos in Greek is brother. So Philadelphia is brotherly love. Philia means caring. It means that persons matter. This is the love of humanity. This is the kind of love, for example, that inspires the Peace Corps. It is the kind of love that inspires your love of social justice, of which our young generation is so very fond. But something of course, to remember is that philia is never selective. It never just chooses certain poor; it loves all poor. It never chooses just one object where there is social injustice; it chooses all. Philia is universal. And there's much more really of this philia in the world than is generally imagined. And it's when we become unconscious of the fact that we are our brother's keeper, we lose a great deal of our own personal dignity.
Dostoevski, the distinguished Russian novelist, tells the story about an old woman in Hell. The angel came to her and said, "Have you ever in your life done anything good?" And she said, "Yes.. .once I gave a carrot to a beggar. " The angel said, "All right. I'm going to let a carrot down to Hell and I want you to take hold of that carrot and I will pull you out." So, naturally, when the thousands of souls that were around the old woman saw her being pulled out hanging on to the carrot, they hung on to her. And there were thousands and thousands. And she turned around to them and said, "Get off. I'm the one who's being pulled out." Then they all fell down...the carrot, and the old woman. Yet we're saved simply because we're conscious of being human with everyone else in all of the world.
I am thinking now of the story of a man who was asked to give to charity, and when he went to Heaven, St. Peter asked him, "Have you really ever done anything? "He said, "Yes, I gave a dollar once to the Community Chest. St. Peter said to the angel in charge of the IBM cards, "Look up and see if he ever gave a dollar to the Community Chest. He has a lot of money." The angel said, "Yes, he gave a dollar." And St. Peter said to the angel, "Give him back his dollar. Tell him to go to Hell."
I remember talking once to a missionary in the Pacific Islands and I said to him, "What is the greatest virtue of the people with whom you deal?" And he said, "I can tell you their greatest virtue in terms of their greatest vice. It is what they call "Kai Po" the sin of eating alone. They will go without food for three or four days until they find someone who can share it." This is philia. This is love. It demands, of course, a sacrifice of self. And there's a great potential hidden, great potential for sacrifice, hidden in young people; and we're not drawing it out, but it's there. The fault is really ours.
About nine or ten years ago, I was on my way to Chicago from New York. As the plane took off, a stewardess sat down beside me. She was a ravishingly beautiful girl. She said, "Do you remember meeting me?" And I said, "No, I don't. I should, but I don't remember you." And she said, "Two years ago on this plane I met you; I sat with you for twenty minutes, and I remember every word you said." "What did I say?" "You began by saying, 'You are a very beautiful girl. And do you know that of all the gifts that God gives, the one he gets back last and least of all is the gift of beauty. He gives money; people use it for the poor; he gives song, and people use it for worship; when he gives beauty, he sometimes gets back nothing but old bones. So why don't you think of giving your beauty to people who have never seen anything beautiful.' That's what you said." I said, "That sounds just exactly like me. That's what I would say." 'Well," she said, “I've had two years to think it over; I've made up my mind. I'm willing to do anything." "When?" "Now." I said, "All right, you come to my office in New York, and I will tell you where you are going. I will tell you now if you want to know." She said, "It doesn't make any difference." And I said, "You are going to Viet Nam. You are going to a leper colony." There she is today with a woman doctor, and they have a jeep. And they drive the jeep, particularly under bridges where lepers hide after being driven out of villages, and she picks them up and takes them to a leper colony and cares for them. And thus the lepers are seeing something beautiful for the first time in their lives. And she, on account of philia and love of distressed humanity, is also seeing something very beautiful. This is philia. This is the love of mankind.
Now we come to the last word. The last word is agape. Agape was not very often used in classical Greek literature. And the Christians had to find a new word to describe that love of God who became man and who died for our sins. And so they took this rarely used word, agape, and they used it for love. For example, that famous, most beautiful passage on love in all literature is in the letter of Paul to the Corinthians. And there in the old translation, the King James version, charity is used; but actually a better translation is love.
Now, what kind of love is agape? Love is, in agape, something that is unreciprocated; is loving when love is not returned. It's loving people not because of their functions or their color or anything else, but loving them simply because they are persons.
Now, an example of this kind of agape, was manifested first of all by Dr. Victor Frankl. Perhaps you students of psychology have read some of his books on logotherapy. He is a Jewish professor of neurology at the University of Vienna. And he told me that he was invited to one of our American universities to establish his school of logotherapy. That was a therapy that was based upon the fact that the drive of life is not for pleasure; the drive of life is for meaning. And being invited at the time of the Nazi persecution, his big problem was: Should I leave my father who, because he is a Jew, will certainly be thrown into a furnace by Hitler; or should I save myself, do what I want to do, and establish my school of psychiatry in the United States. He went to St. Stephen's church in Vienna for an hour and prayed for light. Apparently, he received no answer. When he came home, he said to his father at dinner that night, "What is that rock of marble over there on the table?" His father said, "You know, Hitler burned our synagogue. I went over to the ruins this afternoon and rummaged about with my cane, and I dug out this piece of marble." Dr. Frankl said to his father, "There's writing on it, Hebrew script. Did you read it?" "No," he said, "I didn't." And they went over and it was the commandment. Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. That was Dr. Frankl's answer, so he stayed in Vienna; and because he was such a distinguished neurologist, the Nazis did not kill him and he was able to close his own father's eyes in sleep. So he was one who loved the father, was willing to sacrifice, if need be, his own career just because his love was not the ego, the love that's turned inward in which we become serpents devouring ourselves. For the agape doesn't mean to have and to own and to possess; it means to be had and to be owned and to be possessed. Love is not a circle, circumscribed by self. It's something, arms outstretched to embrace all humanity. That's what the agape is.
Everybody becomes lovable under agape. That's what the agape is. Now, for example, God loves me. He loves you. Now, there's nothing particularly lovable about me. And there are at least two or three of you who will admit there is nothing particularly lovable about you. Yet God loves you, and He loves me. Now, why does He love me? Because he puts His love into me. And when He puts His love into me, I become very lovable. And when I begin to put my love into other people, they become lovable. As a matter of fact, love transforms people.
Let me give you this one last example of agape. I went to a leper colony about four or five years ago in Africa. And I brought with me about five hundred silver crucifixes for the five hundred lepers, and I was going to give one to each leper. The first leper that came up to me had his left arm off at the elbow. He held up his stump and there was a rosary around the stump. He held out his right hand. It was the most foul-fitted noisome mass of corruption I ever saw! And I held the crucifix above it and dropped it. It was swallowed up by the disease. All of a sudden there were five hundred and one lepers in that camp, and I was the five hundred and first, for I'd taken this symbol of divine love and refused to be identified with a man who was a thousand times better on the inside than I was. And than there came over me the awful thought of what I had done; and then I dug my finger into his hand and pulled out the cross and then pressed it to his hand and so on to the other five hundred lepers. From that time one, one loves them because one has touched them and shared their sorrow. This is agape. This is love.
And so, my dear fellow students, you're all young; you have hearts that are incomplete—they will never be complete except by love. But none of you, not one of you has a perfect heart. Your heart is not perfect in shape and contour like a valentine heart. There seems to be a small piece missing out of the side of every human heart. That may be to symbolize the piece that was torn out of the universal heart of humanity on the cross. But I think the real meaning is that when God made the heart of each and every one of you, he found it so good, so fine, so noble, and so promising that he kept a small sample of it in Heaven. And then he sent the rest of your hearts into this world, where you would love with all the heart that you have but where you would have to learn by the anxieties of life and human situations that you'll never be really peaceful, never be totally happy, never be really whole-hearted until you go back again to God to recover the piece that he has been keeping for you from all eternity.
Thank you, bye, and God love you.